Essential Policies for the Columbia Community

INVOLUNTARY LEAVE OF ABSENCE POLICY

The Dean of Students or other staff person as designated in the school's bulletin (DOS) of a student's school, or his/her designee, may place a student on an Involuntary Leave of Absence for reasons of personal or community safety. This process will be undertaken only in extraordinary circumstances when there is compelling information to suggest that the student is engaging in or is at heightened risk of engaging in behavior that could lead to serious injury to others, including as a result of physical or psychological illness.[1] In addition, the Involuntary Leave process may be initiated if, based on an individualized assessment, it is determined that there is a significant risk that the student will harm him/herself, and that the risk cannot be eliminated to reduced to an acceptable level through reasonable and realistic accommodations and/or on-campus supports.

This policy provides students with general information regarding an Involuntary Leave of Absence. For more specific information regarding the circumstances and processes for an Involuntary Leave of Absence, as well as conditions relevant to returning from Leave, students should refer to their school bulletins or speak with their Dean of Students (DOS). Students are responsible for understanding the implications of an Involuntary Leave of Absence for housing, financial aid, health insurance, and progress toward the degree.

This policy will not be used in lieu of disciplinary actions to address violations of Columbia University rules, regulations, or policies. A student who has engaged in behavior that may violate rules, regulations, or policies of the University community may be subject to the Dean's Discipline Process of his/her particular school. A student may be required to participate in the disciplinary process for his/her school coincident with placing the student on an Involuntary Leave of Absence. A student who is placed on an Involuntary Leave of Absence while on academic and/or disciplinary status will return on that same status.

Before an Involuntary Leave is considered, efforts may be made to encourage the student to take a Voluntary Leave of Absence. These procedures are described in the Voluntary Leave of Absence Policy. A readmission process may still be required of a student electing a Voluntary Leave to determine his/her readinesses to return to school (e.g., whether returning to school may increase the risk of self-harm and/or harm to others).

International students are advised that an Involuntary Leave of Absence will likely affect their student visa status and should consult with the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) on the Morningside Campus and the Office of International Affairs on the CUMC campus for more information.

When safety is an immediate concern, the DOS or his/her designee may remove a student from the campus pending final decision on Involuntary Leave. If this action is deemed necessary, the student will be given notice of the removal. An opportunity to be heard by the DOS and, if desired, appeal the final decision will be provided at a later time.

[1] Note that the “Morningside Campus: Required Medical Leave for Students with Eating Disorders” policy governs situations in which the health condition affecting a student is an eating disorder.

Determining Whether Involuntary Leave is Appropriate

  1. When an Involuntary Leave is under consideration, the DOS, or his/her designee, will notify the student in writing. In the Notification Letter the DOS will provide the student with information regarding procedures for an Involuntary Leave of Absence.
  2. The DOS or designee will gather information necessary to make an individualized and objective assessment of the student's ability to safely participate in his/her academic program and in the University community. The DOS or designee may gather this information from various sources, including but not limited to administrators and faculty from the student's school or department; on the Morningside campus, Counseling and Psychological Services and/or Primary Care Medical Services; on the CUMC campus, an appropriately trained health professional identified by the DOS; and, Columbia University Public Safety.
  3. In an effort to gather the most current information about the student, the student may be asked to consent to a psychological and/or medical evaluation (at no cost to the student). For students enrolled on the Morningside campus, this evaluation may be completed by a member of Counseling and Psychological Services staff for issues related to mental health or a member of Primary Care Medical Services staff for issues related to physical health. For students enrolled on the CUMC campus, this evaluation will be arranged through the DOS's office. The student may also be asked to provide relevant medical and/or psychological information from his/her health care provider. If a student declines to consent to release the requested medical/psychological information this declination may be included along with all other available information in the decision whether to place the student on Leave.
  4. Upon gathering relevant information the DOS will convene a Committee on Leave to examine the materials presented and submit a recommendation to the DOS. The Committee may be composed of administrators, faculty and staff from any or all of the following:
    a. Columbia University Public Safety
    b. The school in which the student is enrolled
    c. For Morningside students:
    i. Columbia University Primary Care Medical Services
    ii. Columbia University Counseling and Psychological Services
    d. Other professionals as deemed necessary by the DOS.
  5. Following the review of all of available, relevant information, a decision will be reached by the DOS or designee. The student will be informed in writing of the decision. If an Involuntary Leave is imposed, the Letter of Notification will include all relevant terms and conditions of the Leave as well as terms and conditions for application for re-enrollment at the end of the Leave period.

If Involuntary Leave is Imposed

If a student is placed on an Involuntary Leave, the student’s Columbia University Identification Card must be returned to the Office of the Dean of Students in the time period indicated in the Notification Letter. Occupied University housing must be vacated immediately. the student's Columbia University Identification Card must be returned to the Office of the Dean of Students in the time period indicated in the Notification Letter. Occupied University housing must be vacated immediately.

The student may not visit the campus or any other University-owned facility except with the written permission of the DOS or his/her designee. Such permission may be set forth in the Notification Letter. Otherwise, the student must remain off all Columbia University campuses (Morningside, CUMC, Lamont-Doherty) during the period of Leave. Columbia University Public Safety and Columbia University Housing and Dining Services will be notified of the student's Involuntary Leave status and will take appropriate steps to limit access of the student during the period of Leave. According to the practice of the individual school, a transcript notation of "Withdrawn" or "Leave of Absence" may be noted on the student's transcript.

Appeal

A student who is placed on an Involuntary Leave may appeal the decision to the Dean of the School or his/her designee within the time period defined in the Letter of Notification. The appeal must be in writing, delineating the reason(s) why the student believes the decision is inappropriate. The Dean of the School will review the student's appeal and uphold, reverse or alter the decision. The Dean's decision will be communicated to the student in writing and shall be considered final.

Return from Involuntary Leave

  1. Requirements and deadlines relevant to the process for re-enrollment after an Involuntary Leave will be specified in the Letter of Notification.
  2. All students returning from an Involuntary Leave will be required to have an assessment interview prior to being approved by the DOS for re-enrollment. This assessment may be conducted on the Morningside campus by a member of the Counseling and Psychological Service staff and/or a member of the Primary Care Medical Services staff, if a psychological or physical illness contributed to the student's inability to remain safely on campus. On the CUMC campus, this assessment may be performed by an appropriately trained health professional identified by the DOS. These assessments will not be conducted without signed written consent for release of information by the student.
  3. As part of the assessment process, students may additionally be asked to authorize his/her health care provider while they were on Leave to provide a "Certificate of Fitness to Return". If a student declines to release this requested medical/psychological information, this declination may be included along with all other available information in the decision regarding whether to allow the student to re-enroll.
  4. When a student's potential for violence is under review as part of the assessment of a student's readiness to re-enroll, Public Safety may undertake a review of the student's behavior while on Leave, including, but not limited to, record of convictions, restraining orders, and interviews with individuals in a position to observe the student's behavior. Only findings relevant to the Involuntary Leave and the student's request for re-enrollment will be considered.
  5. Upon gathering this information the Committee on Leave will be convened by the DOS to examine the materials presented and submit a recommendation to the DOS regarding whether the student has demonstrated that it is appropriate for him/her to re-enroll and return to the University community. This committee may be composed of administrators, faculty and staff from any or all of the following:
    a. Columbia University Public Safety
    b. The school in which the student is enrolled
    c. For Morningside students:
    i. Columbia University Primary Care Medical Services
    ii. Columbia University Counseling and Psychological Services
    d. Other professionals deemed necessary by the DOS
  6. The decision of the DOS regarding the student's eligibility to re-enroll will be communicated to the student in writing. As needed, the DOS or his/her designee will notify the appropriate offices and administrators regarding the decision, and any relevant conditions thereof.
  7. A student who fails to request re-enrollment upon the conclusion of an Involuntary Leave period may be denied permission to re-enroll at a later time and may be required to apply for readmission to the school in which he/she was enrolled.
  8. Students who participated in campus housing prior to their Leave are not guaranteed housing upon re-enrollment.

Appeal

A student may appeal a decision denying re-enrollment to the Dean of the School by submitting a written request for review of the decision. The Dean of the School will review the student's appeal and all necessary additional information and will then render a decision, which shall be final.

Confidentiality

Columbia University will maintain the confidentiality of all information regarding Involuntary Leaves of Absence in accordance with federal, state and local law, and to the greatest extent consistent with the goal of processing such Leaves. All records concerning Involuntary Leaves are confidential. The official copy of such records shall be retained by the Dean of the School in which the student was enrolled at the time of the Leave. Access to these records is limited by appropriate federal, state and local law.

Columbia University reserves the right to notify a parent or guardian if deemed appropriate under the circumstances and as permitted by applicable federal, state, and local law.

9/2015